Your tenant vacates. You start the process of turning the property around but are astounded to find that the tenant has left behind a couple of car loads of his personal property. What do you do? Short answer: Be careful. Be very, very careful. The problem of seemingly abandoned tenant personal property occurs most commonly when the tenancy has ended on less than favorable terms, usually eviction. In my experience, tenants that leave property behind are the most troublesome ones and the most likely to re-appear in your life.
I have seen landlords and their insurance companies have to pay out big bucks to undeserving tenants because the landlord failed to follow the correct procedure for disposing of the tenants’ personal property. my company The rickety end table and orphan left tennis shoe may look like junk. And the tenant obviously didn’t care much about it. But that won’t stop the tenant from later claiming in his lawsuit that the flea market possessions which he left strewn about your rental property were really worth a king’s ransom. Follow the correct procedure and protect yourself.
If the tenant’s property is truly junk, the law in California where I practice allows you to keep or throw out any property that the landlord “reasonably believes” is worth less than $300. 00 resale. In such a case, the landlord must serve the tenant with a notice, personally or by first-class mail, stating the landlord’s intention to throw out the property if the tenant doesn’t claim it within 15 days (18 days if service of the notice is by mail). The notice must be served on the tenant at the tenant’s last known address. I recommend to clients that they serve the notice at all known addresses for the tenant, including work addresses and relatives’ addresses written on the rental application.
If you do elect to throw out tenant property, make sure that you inventory and photograph the property. You must have a persuasive record of what property you threw out should the tenant come back at you later and claim that you threw away his valuables.
If the tenant’s property remaining on the premises likely exceeds $300. 00 in value, the law, again in California for example, provides a procedure for getting rid of the property that you must follow strictly. First, you must serve the tenant with a Notice of Right to Reclaim Abandoned Property. (I provide a form notice as part of a packet of forms that i give to my to landlord clients free of charge).
You may serve this notice on the tenant either personally or by first-class mail to the tenant’s last known address. To be safe, I also advise my clients to serve the notice on all known addresses of the tenant’s, including relatives listed on the rental application. You must also serve this notice on any other person, besides the tenant, that you believe may be the owner of the property.